“Hey, how have you been?” My friends would text.
I am not quite sure. I think this pandemic is taking a real toll on me. I haven’t been “out” Out in months, except for my two entrances and twice for my medical check-ups. I haven’t seen my friends for days. My independence after the pandemic has been dramatically decreased. I feel stuck. I can’t move out, and I can’t stay in anymore. I’m tired of this virtual world and sitting in my room 24/7.
This is what I really wanted to say, but instead, “I’m doing just fine!” This is what I always replied with.
These are how most of my chats for the last few months looked like. And feeling overwhelmed, extremely exhausted and crying myself to sleep without letting anyone know; these are how most of my days in the past months looked.
The ableist society and internalizing all that ableism used to make things worse on usual days anyway, leave alone thinking about ableism amidst a pandemic. The already existing inaccessibility and discrimination have increased. The stereotypes have doubled up. The independence has been lost.
Just as the speed at which the prejudices and the marginalization have increased after COVID-19, so has the internalized ableism in me.
I guess living with a disability amidst a pandemic hits differently.
One belief that never goes away is that of being a burden. Even though I have a supportive group of friends and family, sharing what I’m feeling is something I’m unable to do. Why you ask? Because how do you overcome the beliefs about yourself that you’ve grown up Internalising?
The thought that “these are already hard times, and I do not want to end up being another added stressor in the lives of the people I love” always remains. And it doesn’t end there. Sometimes there are also feelings of “proving” your worth to others because, as a disabled woman, most of the times, you’re rarely taken seriously.
So there’s this added stressor of being productive. Of proving what you’re capable of, regardless of the fact whether you have the energy for it or not. And when that doesn’t happen, you feel disappointed in yourself. You were already not in a good place; now you feel even worse.
Because of the ableism that’s inside you, it gets even harder to reach out for support that you really need. So you also start feeling helpless, hopeless and whatnot.
Lethargy and certain thoughts start to take over your mind. And you think perhaps taking a lot of work would help but what it really does is exhaust you even more. What do you do then? Because there’s this vicious cycle that you’re stuck in feeling exhausted – taking up work more than you can manage-feeling exhausted.
You then take a break amidst a break.
I wasn’t planning on taking a break, but with all the stuff happening in my life; the lost independence, the heartbreaks, the ableism – both internalized and that by the society, I got really tired. And I had to resort to giving myself some rest.
So I did. And while I was at it, I wrote. I wrote a lot. Not only did it help me vent myself, but it also helped me understand myself better. It made me feel empowered. It helped motivate me to do more of the things that I love. So I practised clay modelling more frequently; I even took out my ukulele just the other night. And surprisingly, I also reached out to one of my closest friends. It took a lot of courage to do that, but I’m glad I managed to do that. And I’m glad that I have the kind of friends I have in my life.
It didn’t suddenly take all my worries away. Neither did everything in my life fall in place. But it really did help me feel better.
This article cum unstructured journal entry is pretty vague. But if I were to highlight, what I really want to say out loud is that it’s okay not to be okay. That sometimes, it does take a lot of time.
I haven’t even reached there myself yet. It took me months to be able to process what was really happening around and with me. And there’s still a lot of stuff left for me to process. I didn’t magically get back to my hobbies. And I haven’t been very regular at them either.
I’d be lying if I said that I’m at my best emotionally right now. Because I’m not. But I’ll get there. And the key to do that is to try and learn more about my emotions. To treat myself better. To love myself better.
It’s hard; it really is. But I kinda like it. I like this process of letting me heal myself.
And if there’s something that could be taken away from here, I’d want it to be the realization that taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. That being productive or not doesn’t really matter. There’s a freaking pandemic going on; if all you could do was just survive a day or two, that’s more than enough. That you don’t have to be so harsh on yourself.
And just as important it is to be able to reach out for support, just as important it is for us to create a space safe enough for our loved ones to reach in.